Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

City’s Strategy: Settle for a Cheaper Loss

October 20, 2006

Just imagine the outrage San Francisco taxpayers would direct at city leaders if they believed the city handed off a couple hundred thousand dollars to Macy’s Department Stores. There’d be picketing, long rants at the next Board of Supervisors hearing, maybe even calls for impeachment.

Well, Macy’s is likely to get a nice six-figure payment from the city sometime soon, a move that will finally end a long-running dispute over taxes the retailer paid in the late 1990s. Depending on how you read it, that payment is either a slick move by city lawyers to avoid losing millions or a failure to fight for every last dollar.



Gay Marriage Judge Faces November Ballot

October 6, 2006

An overlooked tidbit regarding the First District’s ruling against gay marriage: William McGuiness, author of the majority opinion, is on the ballot for retention this November.

Appellate justices must run for retention every 12 years, meaning they must secure a majority of “yes” votes to stay on the bench. Few issues fuel as much passionate disagreement as gay marriage, and so with yesterday’s ruling, McGuiness just inserted himself in the middle.


Majority: Heterosexual-Only Marriage Rational

October 5, 2006

Justice William McGuiness’ majority opinion today upholding opposite-sex only marriages largely followed the path taken by state courts in New York and Washington, concluding that the right to same-sex marriage is not fundamental — and therefore not subject to heightened scrutiny — and that it survives a rational-basis review.

The key issue on whether the right is fundamental is how it is defined. The city of San Francisco had argued on behalf of same-sex couples that it is the right to marry the person of one’s choice. But McGuiness and Justice Joanne Parrilli disagreed.


In Asbestos Settlements, It Pays to Make Noise

September 8, 2006


The un-squeaky wheel loses out on the grease. At least, that was the way it went for a couple hundred Brayton Purcell clients in an appellate case this week.


The concept of settling with a group of former asbestos producers would seem, at first, to be a great idea for both sides: plaintiffs can negotiate with a single corporation, the Center for Claims Resolution, and in return CCR’s member companies get the claims against all of them dropped in one swoop. But that model of efficiency loses some luster when one of the companies decides to renege on its share of the payment. (more…)

What Do They Say About Keeping Friends Close…?

September 1, 2006

Maybe Kamala Harris should have done more to keep Jim Hammer on her staff when she took over the San Francisco district attorney’s office a couple of years ago. Because, as it turns out, he is not the type to go softly into the night.

Back in 2003, when Hammer — who had previously admitted some interest in the DA’s job himself — was the head homicide prosecutor, he openly and loyally supported then-DA Terence Hallinan in his re-election campaign. After Harris won, it came as little surprise when Hammer left the office just a few months into her tenure.

More recently, Hammer has seemed to be making a decent go of it in private practice, having joined up as of counsel with San Francisco’s Gonzalez & Leigh. But he hasn’t completely left the world of prosecution behind – he wrote a scathing editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle today that all but excoriated Harris’ work in oh, tons of ways. The Chronicle also put out an editorial by Harris the same day, where she lays out what she describes as her four-pronged approach to fighting violent crime.

It all makes us wonder, just a little bit, what might have been, had the two of them actually stayed in the same office together.

(Update: Harris’ chief assistant DA has since responded specifically to Hammer’s critique in a letter to the Chronicle’s editor. Scroll down until you see the bit by Russ Giuntini.)

Pam Smith

Obsessive Defense Thwarts S.F. Eviction

August 22, 2006

In the animal kingdom of evictions, there are species that tenant lawyers refer to as hoarding and cluttering cases. And like most eviction cases, they go to trial only rarely.

So Joel Liberson and Jason Wolford, two former Gordon & Rees lawyers who started their own civil law firm about a year ago, were treading on unfamiliar ground recently when they went to trial for a pro bono client with a messy apartment — and won, by showing she suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. But making that defense work in a time-crunched eviction case was no easy trick.


Fun With Campaign Cash

August 16, 2006

Fact No. 1: San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is running unopposed for a second term.

Fact No. 2: He plans to raise $50,000 for his re-election campaign.

Asked why Adachi feels the need to muster money for a campaign that is now a nonevent, the public defender said he still feels it important to ask the public for its vote. The campaign is also a chance to educate people about the duties of his office and to reach out to the community, he said. “A lot of people don’t realize the public defender is an elected office,” Adachi continued. “You still have to be accountable to the voters.”

As for the cynical view that he is just as interested in raising his own profile (he is often mentioned as a possible 2011 mayoral candidate), Adachi acknowledged he might face that criticism. Yet he reiterated his argument that voters shouldn’t be taken for granted. Adachi also noted he isn’t the first elected lawyer to raise money without an opponent: City Attorney Dennis Herrera did the same last year, spending roughly $300,000 for his re-election campaign. The public defender said he won’t spend nearly that much.

— Dan Levine 

All That Money, and Nowhere to Run?

August 4, 2006

Looks like San Francisco’s public defender can rest easy on vacation. When Jeff Adachi was headed out of the office for a little R&R this week, he was still unopposed in his upcoming re-election in November.

The campaign statements (.pdf) that were due this week showed he had already raised $13,260 in cash contributions between mid-March and the end of June. And he was estimating that his more recent fundraiser at the Glas Kat in SoMa brought in about $25,000. Sounds like enough to cause serious pause for anyone who might be toying with the idea of a challenge. But he won’t know for sure until Aug. 11, the deadline for any other contenders to sign up.

Pam Smith

Cop-Union Chief Focuses Rage on Judges

July 27, 2006

Just yesterday, the head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association was fuming about the city’s criminal justice system as a whole — including prosecutors as well as judges — for not doing enough in the past to put away someone booked for yesterday’s car-crash fatality of a San Francisco cop.

But by today, thanks to a timely conversation with the district attorney’s right-hand man, SFPOA president Gary Delagnes was focusing his anger solely on the judges — and threatening to make it harder for them to keep their seats on the bench.


Will Cop Killing Be More Trouble for S.F. DA?

July 26, 2006

The killing of another San Francisco police officer early Wednesday morning was a tragedy sure to send the city’s entire police force into collective mourning. It also begs a question: Will another cop killing push District Attorney Kamala Harris into the midst of the same kind of controversy that erupted after Officer Isaac Espinoza was shot to death just a few months after Harris’ 2004 inauguration?

At that time, Harris was quick to confirm she would not seek death for defendant David Hill, a decision in step with the death penalty position she’d voiced on the campaign trail. After that, she spent weeks running the gauntlet, so to speak, as the local police union and Sen. Dianne Feinstein slammed her judgment and Attorney General Bill Lockyer toyed with the idea of stepping into the case.